Thomas Reid.

The works of Thomas Reid, D.D.; now fully collected, with selections from his umpublished letters online

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phy will also be enlarged."

Newton's Optics.

" Account fur moral as for natural, things."


For the opinion of a very competent
judge, with respect to the merits of the
" Treatise on Ancient Painting," vide
Hogarth's Print, entitled "Beer-Lane."

Note C Page 10.

" Dr Moor combined," &c. — James
Moor, LL.D., author of a very ingenious
fragment on Greek grammar, and of other
philological essays. He was also distin-
guished by a profound acquaintance with
ancient geometry. Dr Simson, an excel-
lent judge of his merits, both in literature
and science, has somewhere honoured him
with the following encomium : — " Turn in
Mathesi, turn in Greecis Literis multum et
feliciter versatus."

" The "Wilsons," (both father and son,)

&c Alexander Wilson, M.D., and

Patrick Wilson, Esq., well known over
Europe by their " Observations on the
Solar Spots," and many other valuable

Note D Page 20.

A writer of great talents (after having
reproached Dr Reid with "a gross igno-
rance, disgraceful to the university of which
he was a member") boasts of the trifling
expense of time and thought which it had
cost himself to overturn his philosophy.
" Dr Oswald is pleased to pay me a com-
pliment in saying, that 'I might employ
myself to more advantage to the public, by
pursuing other branches of science, than by
deciding rashly on a subject which he sees
I have not studied.' In return to this
compliment, I shall not affront him, by
telling him how very little of my time this
business has hitherto taken up. If he
alludes to my experiments, I can assure
him that I have lost no time at all ; for,
having been intent upon such as require
the use of a burning lens, I believe I have
not lost one hour of sunshine on this
account. And the public may, perhaps, be
informed, some time or other, of what I
have been dohi£ in the s/tn, as well as in
the shri'le."— [Priestley's] " Examination
of Ueid's Inquiry," &c, p. 357. See also
pp. 1(11. 102 of the same work.

Note E Page 27.

The following strictures on Dr Priestley's
" Examination," &c, are copied from a
very judicious note in Dr Campbell's " Phi-
losophy of Rhetoric," vol i. p. 3.

" I shall only subjoin two remarks

on this book. The first is, that the author,
through the whole, confounds two things
totally distinct — certain associations of ideas,
and certain judgments implying belief, which,
though in some, are not in all cases, and,
therefore not necessarily connected with
association. And if so, merely to account
for the association is in no case to account
for the belief with which it is attended.
May, admitting his plea, (p. 86,) that, by
the principle of association, not only the
ideas, but the concomitant belief may be
accounted for, even this does not invalidate
the doctrine he impugns ; for, let it be
observed, that it is one thing to assign a
cause, which, from the mechanism of our
nature, has given rise to a particular tenet
of belief, and another thing to produce a
reason by which the understanding has
been convinced. Now, unless this be done
as to the principles in question, they must
be considered as primary truths in respect
of the understanding, which never deduced
them from other truths, and which is under
a necessity, in all her moral reasonings, of
founding upon them. In fact, to give any
other account of our conviction of them, is
to confirm, instead of confuting the doctrine,
that, in all argumentation, they must be
regarded as primary truths, or truths which
reason never inferred through any medium,
from other truths previously perceived.
My second remark is, that, though'this exa-
miner has, from Dr Reid, given us a cata-
logue of first principles, which he deems
unworthy of the honourable place assigned
them, he has nowhere thought proper to
give us a list of those self-evident truths
which, by his own account, and in his own
express words, ' must be assumed as the
foundation of all our reasoning.' How
much light might have been thrown upon
the subject by the contrast ! Perhaps we
should have been enabled, on the compari-
son, to discover some distinctive characters
in his genuine axioms, which would have
preserved us from the danger of confound-
ing them with their spurious ones. No-
thing is more evident than that, in whatever
regards matter of fact, the mathematical
axioms will not answer. These are purely
fitted for evolving the abstract relations of
quantity. This he in effect owns himself,
(p. 39.) It would have been obliging, then,
and would have greatly contributed to
shorten the controversy, if he had given us,
at least, a specimen of those self-evident


principles which, in his estimation, are the
non pins ultra of moral reasoning."

Note F — Page 31.

Dr Reid's lather, the Rev. Lewis Reid,
married, for his second wife, Janet, daughter
of Mr Fraser of Phopachy, in the county
of Inverness. A daughter of this marriage
is still alive ; the wife of the Rev. Alex-
ander Leslie, and the mother of the Rev.
.lames Leslie, ministers of Fordoun. To
the latter of these gentlemen, I am indebted
for the greater part of the information I
have been able to collect with respect to Dr
Reid, previous to his removal to Glasgow —
Mr Leslie's regard for the memory of his
uncle having prompted him, not only to
transmit to me such particulars as had
fallen under his own knowledge, but some
valuable letters on the same subject, which
lie procured from his relations and friends
in the north.

For all the members of this most respect-
able family, Dr Reid entertained the
strongest sentiments of affection and regard.
During several years before his death, a
daughter of Mrs Leslie's was a constant
inmate of his house, and added much to the
happiness of his small domestic circle.

Another daughter of Mr Lewis Reid was
married to the Reverend John Rose, min-
ister of Udny. She died in 1793 In

this connection Dr Reid was no less fortu-
nate than in the former ; and to Mr Rose
I air indebted for favours of the same kind
with those which I have already acknow-
ledged from Mr Leslie.

The widow of Mr Lewis Reid died in
1 798, in the eighty-seventh year of her age ;
having survived her step-son, Dr Reid,
more than a year.

The limits within which I was obliged to
confine my biographical details, prevented
me from availing myself of many interest-
ing circumstances which were communi-
cated to me through the authentic channels
which I have now mentioned. But I can-
not omit this opportunity of returning to
my different correspondents, my warmest
acknowledgments for the pleasure and
instruction which I received from their

Mr Jardine, also, the learned Professor
of Logic in the University of Glasgow — a
gentleman who, for many years, lived in
habits of the most confidential intimacy
with Dr Reid and his family — is entitled to
my best thanks for his obliging attention to
various queries which I took the liberty to
propose to him, concerning the history of
our common friend.*

♦ The preceding shcpts were set before I was
favoured with the folli wing intorestMignoticesin sup-

plement of Mr Stewart's account of Reid's Life. bv
Dr Knight, Professor of Natural Philosophy in
ftlamchal College, Aberdeen ; and, in consequence,
it has been found imuo&sible to distribute them in the
proper places — H.

P. 3. It is probable that Thomas Reid had been
educated ,.t Marischal College, where the teaching of
classes commenced immediately on its foundatio in
I59H. In Wood's * Fasti Ox on.' (third or Miss's
edition, I. 394.) is the following entry :—

" 16*0, May 28, Thomas Keid, (Kh£edus,j M.A.
of Aberdene in Scotland. Incorporated, - He had
before been a student of this Universale, and pub-
liahed this year * Paraphrasis Psalmi civ.' London :
ln'20. 8vo. And about the same time, ' Epiat ad
Episcopum RofFensem,' in Hvo."

Both Secretary Reid and his brother Alexander,
the physician, seem to have died in rather early Hie
from some expressions in their wills.

Secretary Reid's transcript of King James Vl'g.
" Treatise on the Revelations," is preserved in
Marischal College library. It is interleaved, has the
royal arms on the cover, and on the margins several
alterations in the well known hand-writing of that

In his will, dated 19th May 16^4, he designs him-
self ** Secretary to his Majesty for the Latin Tongue."
In Devon's '* Issues of the Exchequer, being pay-
ments made in the reign of James 1., from the origi-
nal Records in the ancient Poll office," (published
1816,) is the following entry:—

" To Thomas Reed, Gentleman, the sum of
£'26 : 9 : 4, in reward for the travail, .charges, and
expenses of himself and others, employed in writing
and translating the book of his Majesty's w irks out
of English into Latin, by his Majesty's special com.
mandment, and for other his Highness's services, in
the month of October I6l7,"*c.

The original catalogue ol his library, which he be-
queathed to Marischal College, " for the love I bear
to the town of New Aberdeen, and wishing the new
college and schools thereof should flourish," is still
extant amongst the town's records. He had pur.
chased in his travels some of the best editions of the
classics and commentators upon them, which were
then to be obtained.

His brother .Alexander, M D , (Stewart, p, 4,) died
in London about IKJ+. In 1630, he intimated to the
magistrates of Aberdeen his having bequeathed his
books and MSS., and funds for bursaries to the col-
lege- and, in a letter to them, (4th Oct. 163.1,} he
transmitted £110 sterling for the laiter purpose.

From a paper, dated in 1736, in Dr Thomas Reid's
hand-writing, it appears that he had an intention of
being served heir to his direel progenitor, Robert, the
brother and heir of Secretary Reid in i6*4, in order
to enable h>m to institute a suit with the magistrates
of Aberdeen, about their management of the fund
left by his ancestor for the librarian's salary, which
fund had b?en greatly dilapidated by them since
1677. This was, however, rendered unnecessary by
a decision of the Court of Session, which deprived
them of the patronage of that office, and Te^ored it to
the persons in whom the Secretary's will had vested

Dr Reid appears from the College records, to have
been in Dr G, Turnbull's class, (as Mr Stewart men-
tions p. 4,) studying under him three sessions, and
becoming A. M in 17v6. He entered college in 1122,
and was in the first Grt-ek class taught by Dr Thomas
B'ackwell, afterwards Principal, and celebrated, at
the time, for his strenuous attempts to revive the
study of the Greek language in the northern parts of

Dr Reid had entered into this plan with enthu-
siasm ; for his pupil and colleague, the late Professor
William Ogilvie, used to relate that he had heard
him recite to his class, demonstrations of Kuclidin
the original language

The sermon which was preached by Mr John Bis-
aet, on the day of moderating a call for Dr Reid, (to
the parish of- Now-Machar, near Aberdeen,) p. .%
attracted much attention, and continued tobelonga
favourite with the opponents of patronage.

P. fi. Immediately on Dr He-id's appointment to
the place of one of the Regents of King's College, he
prevailed on his colleagues to make great improve-
ments in their system of Univeisity education. The
-es ion was extended fiom five to t>evyn month*.

C 39 ]


The following correspondence consists of three consecutive series.

The first, for which I am indebted to my friend, Alexander Thomson, Esq., of Ban-
chory, extends from 1764 to 1770, and contains letters by Reid, during the first six years
after his removal to Glasgow, to Dr Andrew Skene, and his son, Dr David Skene,
physicians in Aberdeen. This correspondence was terminated, by the death of the father,
in 1767, and of the son, in 1771. Both were highly eminent in their profession;
but the latter, who hardly reached the age of forty, was one of the most zealous culti-
vators of the natural sciences in Scotland, and the valued correspondent of Linnaeus,
Pennant, Lord Karnes, and other distinguished contemporaries. These letters afford
what was perhaps wanting to Mr Stewart's portraiture of Reid— they shew us the philo.
sopher in all the unaffected simplicity of his character, and as he appeared to his friends
in the familiar intercourse of ordinary life.

The second series comprises the letters addressed to Lord Kames, as given in Lord
Woodbouselee's Memoirs of the Life and Writings of that ingenious philosopher. They
extend from 1772 to 1782, and are chiefly of scientific interest.

The third series contains a selection from Reid's letters to his kinsman, the late Dr
James Gregory, Professor of the Practice of Medicine in the University of Edinburgh.
Dr Gregory is known, not only as a distinguished physician, but as one of the most
elegant scholars and vigorous thinkers of his time. He was indeed a remarkable member
even of a family in which, for two centuries, talent would almost seem to have been
entailed. To Dr Gregory and Mr Dugald Stewart, Reid appropriately dedicated his prin-
cipal work — the " Essays on the Intellectual Powers." The correspondence, which is of
varied interest, extends from 1783, and was only terminated by Reid's death in 1796.

I owe my best thanks to John Gregory, Esq., for the flattering manner in which he
placed these valuable letters at my disposal ; but my friend Dr Alison is not the only
other member of the family for whose kindness I have also to express my obligation — H.



Glasgow, Nov. Uth, 1764.
Dear Sir, — I have been for a long time
wishing for as much leisure as to write
you, if it was only to revive the memory
of the many happy hours which I have
enjoyed in your company, when, tete-a-
tete, we sat down to speak freely of men
and things, without reserve and without
malignity. The time slipt away so smoothly,

humanity classwas added, on a higher scale than had
been taught previously ; and the teaching of the ele-
ments of Latin, by the Professor of Humanity, dis-
continued ; some of the small bursaries were united ;
and an account of these alterations was given to the
public in a small tract, published in 1754. Dr Reid
was in favour of one professor teaching thewhole, or
the greater part of the curriculum, and Iherefore did
not follow the plan of confining the professors to
separate branches, as had been done in Glasgow since
1727, and in Marischal College since 1753 The plan
ol'a seven mouths' session, after a trial of five years,
was abandoned.

that I could often have wished to have
dipt its wings. I dare not now be guilty
of any such agreeable irregularities ; for I
must launch forth in the morning, so as t >
be at the College (which is a walk of eight
minutes) half an hour after seven, v hen I
speak for an hour, without interruption, to
an audience of about a hundred. At eleven
I examine for an hour upon my morning
prelection ; but my audience is little more
than a third part of what it was in the
morning. In a week or two, I must, for
three days in the week, have a second pre-
lection at twelve, upon a different subject,
where my audience will be made up of those
who hear me in the morning, but do not
attend at eleven. My hearers commiily
attend my class two years at least. The
first session they attend the morning pre-
lection, and the hour of examination at
eleven ; the second and subsequent years
tliey attend the two prelections, but. not the
hour of examination. They pay fees for
the first two years, and then they arc civci



of that class, and may attend gratis as many
years as they please. Many attend the
Moral Philosophy class four or five years ;
so that I have many preachers and students
of divinity and law of considerable stand-
ing, before whom I stand in awe to speak
without more preparation than I have
leisure for. I have a great inclination to
attend some of the professors here — several
of whom are very eminent in their way ;
but I cannot find leisure. Much time is
consumed in our college meetings about
business, of which we have commonly four
or five in the week. We have a literary
society once a-week, consisting of the
Masters and two or three more ; where
each of the members has a discourse once
in the session. The Professors of Hu-
manity, Greek, Logic, and Natural Philo-
sophy, have as many hours as I have, some
of them more. All the other professors,
except one, teach at least one hour a-day ;
and we are no less than fourteen in num-
ber. The hours of the different professors
are different so far as can be, that the same
student may attend two or three, or per-
haps more, at the same time. Near a third
part of our students are Irish. Thirty
came over lately in one ship, besides three
that went to Edinburgh. We have a good
many English, and some foreigners. Many
of the Irish, as well as Scotch, are poor,
and come up late, to save money ; so that
we are not yet fully conveened, although I
have been teaching ever since the 10th of
October. Those who pretend to know,
say that the number of students this
year, when fully conveened, will amount
to 300.

The Masters live in good habits with one
another, and manage their political differ-
ences with outward decency and good man-
ners, although with a good deal of intrigue
and secret caballing when there is an elec-
tion. I have met with perfect civility from
them all. By this time, I am sure you have
enough of the College ; for y ou kno w as m uch
as I can tell you of the fine houses of the
Masters, of the Astronomical Observatory,
of Kobin Fowlis' collection of pictures and
painting college, of the foundery for types
and printing house ; therefore, I will carry
you home to my own house, which lyes
among the middle of the weavers, like the
Back Wynd in Aberdeen. You go through
a long, dark, abominably nasty entry, which
leads you into a clean little close You walk
up stairs to a neat little dining-room, and
find as many other little rooms as just
accommodate my family so scantily that my
apartment is a closet of six feet by eight or
nine off the dining-room. To balance these
little inconveniences, the house is new and
free of buggs ; it has the best air and the
finest respect in Glasgow ; the privilege of

a large garden, very airy, to walk in, which
is not so nicely kept but one may use free-
dom with it. A five minutes' walk leads us
up a rocky precipice into a large park, partly
planted with firs and partly open, which
overlooks the town and all the country
round, and gives a view of the windings of
the Clyde for a great way. The ancient
cathedral stands at the foot of the rock,
half of its height below you, and half above
you ; and, indeed, it is a very magnificent

When we came here, the street we live
in (which is called the Drygate) was infested
with the smallpox, which were very mortal
Two families in our neighbourhood lost all
their children, being three each. Little
David was seized with the infection, and
had a very great eruption both in his face
and over his whole body, which you will
believe would discompose his mother. .

Although my salary here be much the
same as at Aberdeen, yet, if the class does
not fall off, nor my health, so as to disable me
from teaching, I believe I shall be able to
live as easily as at Aberdeen, notwithstand-
ing the difference of the expense of living
at the two places. I have touched about
A'70 of fees, and may possibly make out the
hundred this session.

And now, sir, after I have given you so
full an account of my own state, spiritual
and temporal, how goes it with you ? Are
George and Molly minding their business ?
I know Kate will mind hers. Is Dr David
littering up your house more and more with
all the birds of the air, the beasts of the
field, and the clods of the valley ? Or has
Walker, the botanist, been carrying him
about to visit vegetable patients, while you
are left to drudge among the animal ones ?
Is your head steady, or is it sometimes
[turning] round? I have a thousand ques-
tions to ask about our [country] people, but
I ought rather to put them to those who
have more time to answer them. I was
very sorry to hear, by a letter from Lady
Forbes, of Hatton's misfortune, and am left
in doubt whether the next account shall be
of his death or recovery.

The common people here have a gloom
in their countenance, which I am at a loss
whether to ascribe to their religion or to the
air and climate. There is certainly more
of religion among the common people in
this town than in Aberdeen ; and, although
it has a gloomy, enthusiastical cast, yet I
think it makes them tame and sober. I
have not heard either of a house or of a
head broke, of a pocket picked, or of any
flagrant crime, since I came here. I have
not heard any swearing in the streets, nor
seen a man drunk, (excepting, inter nos,one
1>n,f r,) since T came here. If this scroll



tire you, impute it to this, that to-morrow
is to be employed in choosing a Rector, and
I can sleep till ten o'clock, which I shall
not do again for six weeks ; and believe me
to be, with sincere friendship .and regard,
dear Sir, yours,

Thomas Reid.



Dear Sir, — We had a Turin Professor
of Medicine here lately, whom I wished you
acquainted with : Count Carburi is his
name ; an Athenian born, but has been
most of his time in Italy.* He seems to be
a great connoisseur in natural history, and
has seen all the best collections in Europe.
The Emperor and King of France, as well
as many persons in Italy, he says, have
much more compleat collections of our
Scotch fossils than any we have in Britain.
I described to him our Bennachie porphyry ;
but he says all that they call porphyry in
Italy, consists of small dark-coloured grains,
in a grey ground, and has very much the
same appearance as many of our granites,
before it is polished. He wanted much to
know whether we had any authentic evi-
dence from Ireland, or anywhere else, of
wood that had been seen in the state of
wood, and afterwards petrified. He would
have gone over to Ireland on purpose, if we
could have given him ground to expect this.
He says MM. Buffon and Daubenton are
both positive that no such thing was ever
known, and that all the petrified wood dug
up on various parts of the earth — of whicli
Carburi says he has two waggon -loads, found
in Piedmont — has been petrified before our
earth put on its present form ; and that
there is no evidence of any such petrifica-
tion now going on. I have a strong inclin-
ation to attend the cbymical lecture here
next winter ; but am afraid I shall not
have time. I have had but very imperfect
hints of Dr Black's theory of fire. He has
a strong apprehension that the phlogistick
principle is so far from adding to the weight
of bodies, by being joyned to them, that it
diminishes it ; and, on the contrary, by
taking the phlogistick from any body, you
make it heavier. He brings many experi-
ments to prove this : the calcination of
metals, and the decomposition of sulphur,
you will easily guess to be among the num-
ber ; but he is very modest and cautious in
his conclusions, and wants to have them
amply confirmed before he asserts them
positively. I am told that Black's theory
is not known at Edinburgh. . Chemistry

* This was Count Mnrco, not fount Marino, Car-
luiri ; horn at Ccpkalonia, and, Irom 1159 to 1808,
Professor of Chemistry in I'adua.—M.

seems to be the only branch of philosophy
that can be said to be in a progressive state
here, although other branches are neither
ill taught nor ill studied. As Black is got
into a good deal of practice, it is to be feared
that hischymical inquiries must go on slowly
and heavily in time to come. I never con-
sidered Dollond's telescopes till I came
here. I think they open a new field in op-
ticks which may greatly enrich that part of
philosophy. The laws of the refraction of
light seem to be very different, in different
kinds both of glass and of native chrystal. 1
have seen a prism of Brazil pebble, which
forms two distinct speculums in Sir I. New-
ton's experiment, each of them containing
all the primary colours. A German native
chrystal seemed to me to form four or five.
One composition of glass separates the

Online LibraryThomas ReidThe works of Thomas Reid, D.D.; now fully collected, with selections from his umpublished letters → online text (page 11 of 114)